70's Pick of the Week
“Just What I Needed”, The Cars (1978)
From the minute the needle hit the record on the Cars first album, aptly titled “The Cars” I was awestruck by this band. It starts with ”Good Times Roll”, followed by “My Best Friends’ Girl” and then “Just What I Needed”. The 1-2-3 punch, man I was down - it was intoxicating.
The sort of lumbering funkiness and rhythmic charge was unique and refreshing. The use of synthesizer did not seem to be the focal point but rather embellishment, which was a contrast to many of the new wave bands who indulged in synthesizer gluttony. The Cars were a sort of garage rockabilly but they dropped in some new weird pop secret ingredient The vocals by Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr were sung in a sort of low-brow, robo- style. The lyrics spun yarns and visual imagery with a rock and roll flavour, mostly about their relationships with various girls/woman.
The other side of the record had “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, “All Missed Up” and “Moving in Stereo”, all classic Cars songs now. This was an exceptional first album for a fledgling band, all of whom were accomplish musicians at this point.
The second Cars album “Candy-O” (1979) spun off the single “Let’s Go”, still probably my favourite Cars song. This album was absolutely huge in the Cars’ native Boston. “Panorama” the third album was a disappointment, but 1981’s “Shake it Up” was more up to the old Cars pop standards. The quirky “Cruiser” a bit of a manic, almost trance-like song is one I like off the album. “Since You’re Gone” is also good.
Their later charted hits like “You Might Think”, “Drive” and “Magic” had the Cars sounding a bit too shiny commercialized and obtuse, and the end was near. The last album “Door to Door” flopped.
The Band broke up in 1988 and Ben Orr passed away in 2000 of pancreatic cancer – one of the coolest but unassuming guys rock ever had. If you listen to no other work by the Cars, you must at least hear the first album before you die.